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Rush Escape Game: Doubling Business After a Double Lockdown



Rush Escape Game: Doubling Business After a Double Lockdown

Meet the local Melbourne business accelerating its cash flow through Zeller.

Visitors come from all over the world to uncover clues, solve puzzles, and reveal the mysteries hidden behind the many doors of Rush Escape Game. From humble beginnings, Rush has grown into a destination for families, friends, and colleagues alike. Despite being thrown a curveball that effectively shut down its entire operation last year, mere weeks after opening a second location in Melbourne’s inner east, the team has big growth plans for 2021.

General Manager Aaron Taylor is Rush’s first and longest-standing employee. Although too competitive for escape games himself, he loves watching customers’ “Ah-ha!” moments. In a world that is becoming more and more physically disconnected, Taylor’s passion for bringing people together is contagious.

We sat down with Taylor to find out more about how Rush has emerged from a global crisis stronger than ever, and why Zeller is the trusted solution to help grow the business.

Escape experiences are a pretty niche industry – how did you get here? 

Funny story, before this I worked in event operations in the Whitsundays. I was living in paradise, but never got to experience it because I was working all the time. Then, seven years ago, I moved to Melbourne on a whim – for a girl. Spoiler alert, that worked out. 

I had never heard of escape rooms, but I found the job for Rush and applied. When I interviewed, the first rooms weren’t even done. It was just me, the director, and his wife sitting around a half-finished foyer. The interview was wild, they didn’t know if the idea would take off, and could hardly promise me 10 hours of work a week. I decided to roll the dice, and here we are.


Tell us a bit about Rush – what goes into running escape room experiences, and what makes Rush special?

I think first and foremost that it’s Melbourne that makes Rush unique. We fit so well with the culture of this city, and I believe our early success stemmed from the people here and their willingness to try something new. 

As far as what goes into it, without sounding too cliche, it’s a lot of love. Everything is designed by our team, university students, nerds, and aspiring artists. Within our industry, many companies outsource the design and construction of rooms – but Rush remains true to developing from the ground up. We love that our rooms are designed by our staff. It allows us to maintain and upgrade rooms at the drop of a hat, which helps in an industry with ever-increasing expectations around experiences. It’s a key differentiator, and one of the reasons why I believe we’ve got the best escape rooms in Melbourne.


What kind of people do you get through the doors? 

We get businesses using us for training or recruitment, families who come every month, bucks parties, goodbye get-togethers, and – my all-time favourite – those who just say, “We were bored and have never done this before”. It’s a real mixed bag.  

The great thing about our industry is that it is a little like Groundhog Day. Every two hours, a new group of customers walk through the door and go through the exact same rooms. You’d think that would make it boring, but it is wild. People are so different, they think and react individually. 

Our purpose is simple: we’re here to entertain, excite, and help people escape their everyday lives. The best thing about it is we normally see everyone on a great day, people are in good moods and we get to help them create memories.

How did COVID-19 affect your business operations?

We were horribly affected by the lockdowns – our entire business model is built around experiences and entertainment in person. We were one of the first to be shut down, and it stayed that way from May till November 2020. We’d also just opened our newest venue in Hawthorn, and our first room had been a viral sensation – it was booked out five months in advance. Once the lockdowns hit, we had to issue refunds and vouchers totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

We spent most of the year trying to find other ways to make money – some successful, others not – but our main goal was to keep everyone engaged and do what we could to support the mental health of our staff. This was very important to us as most of our employees are university students living away from home, many became very isolated through lockdown. 

In the end we did what we could for our staff and thankfully we were able to pull through and now we are just excited to have customers back in our rooms.

How does your business manage cash flow,  is it stressful?

Stressful when you don’t have it. However, we’re fortunately entering a post-COVID growth period. We also have a third venue in the pipeline and are already looking for venues four and five. To fund these new games, we need to have a healthy balance between cash flow and reinvestment. 

We’ve had some nasty surprises with cash flow. Our previous EFTPOS provider threw us a curveball when we had a large corporate client book multiple rooms in-person – transactions of that size would typically be done online, in advance. Instead of simply holding the transaction amount to ensure there were funds for a chargeback, in the event one was requested, our provider decided to lock our account and halted one entire arm of our cash flow across both venues which caused issues with payroll. We were even told incoming payments would be suspended, meaning our customers couldn’t make bookings. That would have shut us down again, right as we were trying to recover from the lockdowns. 

As a rapidly expanding business, the risk of a merchant services provider being able to shut down our cash flow for multiple venues – with no clear guidance as to why – is just too high.


It sounds like it’s a crucial time for your business – what stood out about Zeller? 

We’re all about trying to keep things local. Part of what drew us to Zeller is the fact it’s a Melbourne-based business, with local support, as well as the competitive and transparent pricing.

I’ve learned that cash flow and people are the two biggest barriers to success. If you can find a way to solve these issues early and well, your journey will be much smoother. We’re a company that believes in simplicity and timely management of our funds, so Zeller’s fast settlement removes stress and keeps things straightforward.

Ready to get started with Zeller?

What were you using before Zeller Terminal? 

We were using Square. The terminals were clunky – we needed to use a tablet to connect to Wi-Fi, and were constantly needing to troubleshoot. Square looked sloppy and unprofessional for us. 

The Zeller Terminal is simple and looks more like a traditional terminal, though with a nice touch screen upgrade. The terminal also connects directly to Wi-Fi, so there’s no middle step. It’s just so straightforward. Although in-person purchases only make up around 10 to 15 percent of our total transactions, these transactions are critical and very time-sensitive. Zeller Terminal supports us to meet this need with quick and reliable processing.

How easily did your team adapt Zeller Terminal into their daily routine?

The process of shifting to Zeller was straightforward. I gave all of our managers a five-minute lesson, then staff were shown how to use the terminal once during a shift. That’s all there was to it. Simple, straightforward, and with zero interruption.

What excites you about the future with Zeller? 

We’re excited to use the Zeller Mastercard. Our current bank has issued a Mastercard for each venue, however, these cards are in the names of our managers. As people are promoted, move venues, or leave the business, we need to go through a large amount of paperwork. If we could securely link cards to specific venues, rather than one manager, we’d save a lot of time. 

We’re also excited to see how Zeller will grow in the coming months. We’re already planning how to leverage upcoming features, and looking forward to downsizing our operational stack so that Zeller is our one-stop shop.

Finally, do you have any advice for other business owners considering changing providers? 

Make the switch, quickly. 

For us, it’s all about finding the right merchant services solution so we don’t have to worry about it. Zeller just works, and, because of this, we can focus on doing what we do best: providing immersive experiences. Put another way, Zeller is a distraction-free solution to a core business need.

It takes almost no time to understand the system, create logins and get it going. We spent weeks assessing if we should switch, and within minutes knew we had made the right choice. With Zeller, the transaction process has been simplified and the downtime issues we experienced with Square are gone. I just haven’t had to think about it since we made the switch.

Learn more about how Zeller Terminal can help your business grow with an integrated payments solution that gives you fast access to your funds.

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